Both Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum made their debut for the Los Angeles Lakers shortly after their 18th birthday. Twenty three players over the history of the NBA played for the first time before turning 19, including LeBron James and Tracy McGrady.
Under today’s rules, it’s impossible to enter the NBA straight after high school, with four active NBA players born on 1992 and yet to celebrate their 20th birthday leading the pack of young stuff (Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, Tobias Harris, Bismack Biyombo). None of them are close to the ten youngest ever to play in the league.
At the age of 18 years and six days, Andrew Bynum is the youngest player to ever step on an NBA court. Born on October 27, 1987, Bynum was 10th pick overall in the 2005 NBA draft. He has played for the Los Angeles Lakers ever since coming out of high school. He played only 5 minutes on his debut (November 2, 2005), grabbing two boards and rejecting two shots. He has won two NBA titles with the Lakers and was named to his first All-Star game in 2012.
The Portland Trail Blazers picked Jermaine O’Neal with the 17th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, and since then the South Carolina born big man has traveled to Indiana, Toronto, Miami and recently Boston. Born on Octobor 13, 1978, O’Neal is getting to the point where he’ll soon be one of the oldest in the league, instead of being the youngest ever (until Bynum came along) for a long time. He never really got much playing time before leaving to the Pacers. His debut (December 5, 1996) lasted 3 minutes, scoring two points. O’Neal is a six time NBA All-Star.
Bryant came in four picks before Jermaine O’Neal did. The Charlotte Hornets selected Bryant, who was traded off to the Lakers for Valde Divac. Bryant was 18 and 72 days old when he made his NBA debut on November 3, 1996, finishing with a rebound and a block. Since then, Bryant has evolved into one of the greatest NBA players ever, winning five NBA titles, one regular season MVP and 2 finals MVP awards. He’s also a 14 time All-Star and a two time scoring champion.
Worst draft pick ever? Has to be one of them. The second pick in the incredibly loaded 2003 NBA draft, with Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh following the Serbian big man was meant to be the future of the Pistons, but has since been moved around to Orlando, Memphis, the Knicks and has been with the Timberwolves since 2010.
He was 18 and 133 days old when he made his debut on October 2003, grabbing 2 rebounds in only one minutes of basketball. He does have an NBA title ring from his rookie year, playing a total of 5 minutes in the NBA finals.
The first teenager to ever play in the BAA and later the NBA, Stan Brown was 18 years and 139 days old when he made his debut for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1947. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 80.
A second round draft pick in 1975 by the Atlanta Hawks, Willoughby didn’t leave a mark like the other two prominent high-schoolers of the 1970’s, Darryl Dawkins and of course Moses Malone. Willoughby was 18 years and 156 days old when he made his debut for the Hawks on October 1975, and played in the NBA for eight seasons.
Playing in his 15th NBA season, this time around with the Atlanta Hawks, McGrady began his career alongside his second cousin, Vince Carter, with the Toronto Raptors. McGrady was the number 9 pick in the 1997 draft, turning down an offer from Kentucky among other schools. He was 18 years and 160 days old when he played in his first NBA game, playing six minutes in a loss to the Miami Heat (October 31, 1997). McGrady is a 7 time All-Star and two time NBA scoring champion.
Yaroslav Korolev, the 12 pick in the 2005 NBA draft, lasted only two seasons in the NBA, playing a total of 34 games for the Los Angeles Clippers (who else, right?). He was 18 years and 181 days old when he made his NBA debut, having no statistical impact on the game. In fact, he recorded his first stat (besides playing time) four games into his NBA career, missing a field goal.
At 18 years and 217 days, Andris Biedrins made his debut for the Golden State Warriors, playing 7 minutes, grabbing one rebound and scoring one point on November 5, 2004. He was the 11th pick in the 2004 draft and has been with the Warriors ever since, not becoming the big man of the future he was expected to develop into. He did have a double double type of season in 2008-2009, averaging 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds.
C.J. Miles has been with the Utah Jazz ever since getting picked 34th overall in the 2005 draft. For a second rounder, Miles has had a solid NBA career so far, averaging 8.4 points per game in 19 minutes a night. His debut came against the Knicks, November 14, 2005. He scored 2 points, grabbed two rebounds, had an assist and a steal. He was 18 years and 241 days old at the time.
The rest of the Under 19 debutantes -
Amir Johnson (2006), Darryl Dawkins (1975), Joe Graboski (1948), LeBron James (2003), Jonathan Bender (1999), Eddy Curry (2001), Dwight Howard (2004), Jim Browne (1948), Josh Smith (2004), Martell Webster (2005), Robert Swift (2004), Maciej Lampe (2004), Al Harrington (1999).